Why Men Don’t Talk
To begin addressing and resolving this seemingly impossible impasse, we must understand why men don’t talk. We offer here what we believe are seven of the most common reasons.
1. Men don’t talk because they are afraid their thoughts and ideas will be criticized and rejected.
The Bible recognizes that men are motivated by respect and honor. Perhaps the most succinct statement of this principle is found in Ephesians 5:33: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
It doesn’t say that the wife is to agree with her husband on everything he thinks. Nor does it say she is to say yes when she means no or to practice blind obedience. The Scriptures say she is to “respect her husband.” What does that mean, particularly when it comes to getting him to talk? It means, in biblical terms, she “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” ( James 1:19).
A wife should listen with an accepting, nonjudgmental, and honoring attitude even if she doesn’t agree with everything her husband says or thinks.
In short, a common mistake wives make in trying to get their husbands to talk is to evaluate or judge their ideas as soon as they are spoken. That serves only to shut husbands up. As we will say later in the book, adopting a nonjudgmental, respectful, and patient response to their words will yield far more conversation than offering an instant analysis of their thoughts or ideas.
2. Men don’t talk because they do not believe they are as verbally skilled as their wives.
There is little question that men, on average, are physically stronger than women. We find this idea affirmed in 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner.” At the same time, Peter admonishes husbands not to use their physical advantage to treat their wives in an inconsiderate or disrespectful manner. This can range all the way from mild intimidation to actual physical abuse. The misuse of the masculine physical-strength advantage is one reason the vast majority of restraining orders for domestic violence are filed against men rather than women.
Yet, God in his wisdom has brought balance to this equation by endowing women with a verbal or relational advantage over men. Again, in 1 Peter 3:1 we read, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”
In order to get this husband to talk, she will need to ask questions, and then give him generous time and space to formulate his answers. Eventually he will, and he will share those thoughts and ideas with her, just as long as he isn’t staring at a ping-pong ball hurtling back toward him at the speed of light.
This attitude of respecting, honoring, and patiently listening to her husband is part of how a wife will, as the Scripture teaches, “win” her husband “without words.”
3. Men don’t talk because they are convinced they will lose the exchange.
When men conclude that not only are they going to lose a verbal exchange with their wives but lose it by a wide margin, they try to avoid the match altogether. While perhaps a few men will consistently compete in sports where they lose virtually every time, the majority will sooner or later decide to take up another sport. (The only exception we know of is the Chicago Cubs, who have not won a World Series in over a hundred years. Regardless, they keep showing up for spring training each year.)
I’ll Take a Root Canal Instead
It’s much the same with conversation in marriage. If a husband believes, despite presenting his best thoughts or ideas, he will find himself backed into a verbal corner and “lose” the exchange, he will simply find a way next time to avoid the confrontation altogether. This may include cutting the conversation short, suddenly remembering an important errand he needs to run, or just walking away and shutting the door behind him.
The husband comes to associate talking to his wife with suffering humiliation and loss of face. That’s why he will do nearly anything to avoid being caught in a sit-down, face-to-face, all cards on the table conversation with his wife. He’d rather have a root canal without anesthesia than face that type of emotional pain anytime soon.
4. Men don’t talk because they were taught as children to shut up or face the consequences.
If your husband grew up in a home where whenever he tried to express his true feelings or desires he was met with harsh rebukes, demeaning comments, or even a slap across the face, it didn’t take long for him to figure out it’s better to shut up (and stay that way) than risk incurring his parents’ wrath or punishment.
Unless those painful emotional wounds are healed, he may grow up to marry someone who continues the similar pattern of rebuke, rejection, and ridicule whenever he tries to say something. Even if his wife is far less severe in her rebuff of his thoughts or desires than his parents were, he has been conditioned to sit down, shut up, and stay out of the way.
5. Men don’t talk because they are uncomfortable talking about their feelings.
Many men struggle to get in touch with their emotions and feelings. In some cases they aren’t quite certain what they are feeling, while women are often finely tuned in to the exact nature of their emotions. While women can tell you they are feeling rejection, loneliness, or fear, men may be only vaguely aware of the frustration, loneliness, and hurt that’s going on inside them. They just know for some reason they are hurting.
Imagine sitting down at a party with someone who has a degree in political science. While you have a passing interest in politics and elections, this person can tell you voting trends county by county within your state. While you can offer general reasons why you voted for a particular candidate in the last election, they can recite the person’s voting record as a state legislator, House member, and United States senator.
How long would you continue to enjoy the conversation? How soon until you spotted someone across the room that you’d like to say hello to? Many men feel out of their depth when discussing their feelings and emotions—particularly when they are pressured or hurried to do so. Wives can often seem like professionals when it comes to defining and dissecting emotions and relationships, while men often feel like amateurs.
Accepting a Delayed Response
It is important that wives understand that for men, processing emotions requires time and patience before answers appear on the screen. To help their husbands sort through their various emotions and feelings, wives will need to give them generous time and space to process. This requires backing off from demanding that their husbands share right at the moment what they are feeling. Husbands may not know exactly what they are feeling—but eventually they will.
6. Men don’t talk because they don’t want to appear emotionally weak.
“Who loved you the most growing up, and what did they do to make you feel that way?”
We’ve found this to be an extremely important question for a number of reasons. To begin with, it helps identify the husband’s love language (Gary Chapman’s term). Is it words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, acts of service, or quality time? If a wife can discover which love language her husband naturally speaks, that can help her relate to him in a loving way that he will respond to. The same applies to a husband discovering his wife’s love language. One of the real tragedies in many marriages is that both partners try to love the other person by speaking their own love language, not the other person’s, and thus miss the mark.
The fear of appearing weak explains why a man will often go to great lengths to avoid displaying any emotion (other than anger) in the presence of his wife and children. If the topic turns to an issue that touches raw and unhealed hurts in his life, he may shut down or walk away rather than appear vulnerable. Sadly, the wife is left to feel either he doesn’t care or he isn’t capable of expressing his true feelings. Either way, she feels shut out of his life.
7. Men don’t talk because they do not believe they will be listened to.
This brings us back to the basic premise of this book: There aren’t any men who cannot talk, only those who believe they will not be listened to.
For those of you who believe your husband does not or will not talk to you, there is hope. Your husband has inside him just as many thoughts and convictions as you do. The reasons they go unexpressed may be as many and varied as this chapter has attempted to explain. At the end of the day, every person—male or female—desires to know and be known. We were created for relationships, and even the most aloof husband still has inside a longing to connect on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level with someone.
Adapted from Getting Your Husband to Talk to You, Secrets to Helping Him Share His Heart, by Bob and Cheryl Moeller
Copyright © 2013 Bob and Cheryl Moeller. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Used with Permission, all rights reserved.